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Art, architecture and the senses in Eindhoven and Tilburg

Oktober 2023

Van Abbe museum in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, announced a ‘multi-sensory collection presentation’, called Delinking and Relinking. A good motive to make a trip to this museum with its interesting architecture. And on the way back, pay a visit to De Pont museum in Tilburg, close to Eindhoven (37 km.). First something about the architecture and then about the art experience.


Van Abbe museum in Eindhoven consists of an old building (1936, a listed monument) and a new building (2003). The exterior is a beautiful landscape, with a small river, a nature friendly riverbank, gardens, etc. The main (new) building is constructed around a 27 m. tower with inward sloping walls. All floors open to the central vertical transverse with stairs. This gives nice depth.


The museum states “The museum initially seems to be a labyrinth, but you will soon discover that it provides space for intimate presentations as well as large-scale exhibitions and monumental installations.” At the end of my visit (and I visited the museum before) it was still a kind of labyrinth. Not a problem, the tower space is always a reference point, and my sense of direction and sense of space were activated.  The museum is very enjoyable to just wonder around and discover the various spaces. The museum café is beautiful and even better is the open-air terrace overlooking the garden and the water. The water makes comforting sounds, the scents of the garden smell good.   

De Pont museum in Tilburg is a quite different place. It is a former wool-spinning mill and opened in 1992. In 2016 a new wing with space for photography and video, a new café, an open-air terrace, and a beautiful small garden were opened. The wool mill was kept as much as possible in its original form, meaning that the museum has a characteristic sawtooth roof that gives much daylight. The ‘wool-storage rooms’ provide intimate small spaces for special exhibits.

The space of De Pont is unlike Van Abbe. De Pont consists of very big space plus corridors and small rooms, the latter is more of a labyrinth, The new wing of De Pont joins seamlessly. The impression of the De Pont building is positive due to the light and the big spaces. The museum is equipped for bigger installations.

Multi-sensory art? Van Abbe museum explains “With over 25 multi-sensory tools, including texts in Braille, scent interpretations, tactile drawings and soundscapes, Delinking and Relinking represents the first, fully multi-sensory collection display in the Netherlands. Besides enriching the museum experience for everyone, the exhibition is accessible to a wide audience, including visually or hearing-impaired visitors and wheelchair users.” The museum has made reliefs of paintings, added sound, scent paper strips, etc.


Van Abbe has done a major exercise in trying to enrich the museum's art experience; not just looking at things but also experience something else. It is worth a visit. My personal experience of the exhibition is that touch, small and sound are added sensual experiences, but they are not integrated, and perhaps cannot be. Perhaps you can imagine if you look at the two pictures below. The first shows a painting and a relief of the painting. Touching the relief did not give me a richer experience of the painting. Same for 'walking in a Mondriaan' (second picture), and for the scent paper strips.   

In De Pont museum one finds a special art object. It is by Wolfgang Laib and is 'beeswax on a wooden construction'. It is a small corridor – passageway – that ends in the complete dark. The walls and ceilings are covered with slabs of beeswax, irregularly stacked. This artwork really touches the senses: - the beeswax is a very present scent (rather pleasant); - I entered the passageway and after walking a few meters I ended up in the complete dark, without sense of space and orientation. Instead of my eyes, my hands touching the beeswax slabs gave me information on the space in which I found myself; - it is silent, so my ears 'hear' silence instead of soft background noise. My sense of space and sense of direction were activated and a bit confused. What I could not do, is stay and experience the space for a bit longer time. Perhaps a next time during a quiet weekday.  

The multi-sensory art presentation in Van Abbe runs till 2025. The corridor of beeswax in De Pont is part of the permanent collection. So, there is time to experience the architecture and the art. Moreover, both cities Eindhoven and Tilburg have more interesting modern architecture than their modern art museums.

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